Personalities | Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller) | Fifties | Jazz & Blues

(Harmonica, vocals, c. 1912–65)

Alex Ford ‘Rice’ Miller was born in Glendora, Mississippi. He taught himself the harmonica at the age of five and by his early teens had left home to sing and play as ‘Little Boy Blue’. He worked streets, clubs and functions through Mississippi and Arkansas during the 1930s, often playing with Robert Johnson, Elmore James and Robert Lockwood Jr. In 1941 he began a radio programme, King Biscuit Time, on KFFA in Helena, Arkansas and billed himself as Sonny Boy Williamson.

Sonny Boy started recording for Trumpet in 1951. He switched to Checker in 1955 and had a big R&B hit with ‘Don’t Start Me To Talkin’. He toured Europe with the American Folk Blues Festival in 1963 and recorded with the Yardbirds. Rice Miller was an outstanding harmonica player and also had a fantastic blues voice; he was one of the great blues personalities of the 1950s and 1960s.

Styles & Forms | Fifties | Jazz & Blues
Personalities | Muhal Richard Abrams | Sixties | Jazz & Blues

Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


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